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1 August 2022 | Comment | Article by Richard Green

New treatment for asbestos related cancer recommended for use in the NHS

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has published a final appraisal document recommending a new first-line treatment for use in the NHS to treat unresectable malignant pleural mesothelioma in adults.

Malignant pleural mesothelioma progresses quickly, has a poor prognosis, and there is currently an unmet need for new treatment options. The current line of treatment for pleural mesothelioma is chemotherapy, which is associated with side effects such as nausea, vomiting and alopecia.

The new immunotherapy treatment of ipilimumab and nivolumab works by blocking proteins that stop the immune system from working properly. They help to make the immune system find and kill cancer cells. NICE has found that nivolumab plus ipilimumab was associated with longer overall survival than chemotherapy at both the 2-year and 3-year follow up.

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Liz Darlison MBE, Chief Executive Officer at Mesothelioma UK has commented on the position:

Mesothelioma is a devastating and hard to treat disease with people often diagnosed at a late stage and typically facing a poor prognosis. This decision from NICE has the potential to change the outlook for patients with MPM.

In the UK, over 2,700 people per year are diagnosed with mesothelioma; the UK has the highest prevalence of mesothelioma cases in the world. Malignant pleural mesothelioma is a cancer of the cells surrounding the lungs that affects the respiratory system, and this type of mesothelioma contributes to 90% of cases. Malignant pleural mesothelioma is typically linked to occupational exposure to asbestos.

Mr Wayne Churches was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma in June 2017 as a result of occupational exposure to asbestos in 1970. Mr Churches had worked with and around asbestos laden areas such as ducts and pipework, often removing asbestos lagging from pipes using his hands or handheld tools. Mr Churches approached Hugh James solicitors following his diagnosis and with their assistance he went on to pursue a successful compensation claim against his former employer.

Since Mr Churches was unable to access treatment such as immunotherapy through the NHS, Hugh James included a provision in his settlement that the defendant in his claim would cover the cost of any future treatment recommended by his treating oncologist. Since the settlement of the claim in 2018, this has enabled Mr Churches to undergo more than 50 courses of treatment on a private basis, including immunotherapy. This treatment has controlled Mr Churches mesothelioma and allowed him to far exceed his initial prognosis following diagnosis.

As demonstrated by Mr Churches, treatment other than chemotherapy for malignant pleural mesothelioma patients has, until now, had to be paid for privately. This has meant that many patients who cannot afford private care have had no treatment options other than chemotherapy. Although this new immunotherapy treatment will not be recommended in every case, it does offer hope to sufferers of mesothelioma as a new NHS front-line treatment option.

Author bio

Richard is a Partner and head of the asbestos litigation team. Richard specialises in asbestos-related disease claims and has recovered millions of pounds in compensation for his clients.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.

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